I would like to say a big warm hello to all the loyal Juniper Berry subscribers and readers out there. Also, a big hello to all my family and friends in the neighborhood as well. As always it is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to bring you into my kitchen to share my recipes, thoughts and ideas. Today, I want to bring some of my old school favorites to life on the pages of the Berry. You know, those dishes that just bring you back to being a kid. The mere sight and smell of them conjure up all the warm memories of the people and good times we enjoyed around the table with our loved ones throughout the years. Today’s crazy world is the exact opposite of the world many of us grew up in, with the only certain thing being uncertainty lately. My goal is to have you go into your kitchen, put on some good music, pull out your old home movies, or even put on one of your all-time favorite films. Next roll up your sleeves, put your aprons on and take a trip back into the kitchen time machine. Let’s cook and make new memories with some bona fide oldies but goodies from culinary yesteryear. These dishes still have a place in our hearts and on our tables. Indeed, we can take some old-fashioned peasant foods and elevate them to high cuisine.
The Uncle Gus Experience
This recipe feeds up to 4 people, easily reduce or add to the recipe to suit your needs
3 Hot or Sweet Italian Sausage
(Roasted and Sliced into thin rounds)
1 Red Bell Pepper – 1 Green Bell Pepper
(Clean and cut both peppers into ¼ inch strips)
2 Burbank Russet Potatoes
(Slice these long ways into ¼ Inch slices, lay the slices down and cross cut into small cubes rinse in cold water, drain and dry well)
8 Large Eggs / 4oz of Milk / ¼ Cup Grated Pecorino Romano / 1 TSP Kosher Salt / ½ TSP Cracked Black Pepper / ½ Paprika / Optional…. (I cup shredded Mozzarella, Provolone or Manchego Cheese)
In a mixing bowl, crack your eggs and whisk vigorously adding your milk and dry spices. Once the eggs are well mixed add in your grated cheese and mix in very thoroughly, do not worry if the cheese gets a little clumpy it will melt down during cooking.
In a large cast iron frying pan or your best 12” or bigger frying pan melt 1 TBSP of Butter on low. Once the butter is melted raise the temperature and begin to sauté your diced potatoes. Once the Potatoes begin to get soft and slightly brown add your peppers and onions and vigorously mix together. Next, add your pre-cooked sausage slices. Cook the sausage, potatoes, peppers and onions until slightly caramelized and add a little more butter and then all of your egg mixture. Let the mixture cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes then start to slowly scramble the eggs. Make sure to keep the flame on medium low heat and move the eggs every minute or two until the eggs are cooked thoroughly. Serve this on a plate with toast or the true Uncle Gus way – on a seeded Italian bread hero – and enjoy!
For my hot heads out there: Simply add crushed red pepper, cayenne or chipotle pepper to the eggs to add some strong or mild heat profiles. Another flavorful way to enjoy this sandwich is to add pepperoncinos, jalapenos or hot cherry peppers to the sandwich and enjoy the vinegary heat they offer.
Chef Ricco’s Fast & Fancy Tomato Soup
Served with a 3 Cheese Herb Butter Grilled Cheese Sandwich
32 Ounces of whole peeled plum tomatoes
(use the entire contents of the can juice and all)
5 Fresh Basil Leaves, 4 Fresh Sage Leaves,
¼ Cup Fresh Parsley leaves, 1 TSP Kosher Salt,
½ TSP Cracked Black Pepper, 2 TBSP Heavy Cream,
1 Cup Chicken Stock
(Optional – Cook off some Acini Di Pepe and add that to your bowl per serving, this is what I call Tomato Soup A La Aunt Anna)
In a blender, place the tomatoes, the fresh herbs and spices and blend until silky smooth. If you have a smaller blender, do this in 2 or 3 batches for optimal blending. Take the mixture to a stock pot, bring to a simmer and add your heavy cream and stock. Whisk together very well and bring up to a good simmer. Let cook, stirring every few minutes for 45 minutes to an hour. The soup is to be finished with a touch of some fresh Pesto; this simple Pesto recipe is great for any application but I simply love finishing my tomato soup off with this floral flavorful elixir. To make this super simple pesto, in your blender add;
3 Cups Fresh Basil (washed well and dried off, I like to use my salad spinner for this), 1 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1-2 Pinches Kosher Salt, 1-2 Pinches Cracked Black Pepper, (Add 1 TSP of crushed red pepper if you like heat), The Juice of ½ a Lemon, The Zest of ¼ a lemon. Blend the mixture until it is smooth and put in a squirt bottle for easiest application.
Now that the soup is constructed and ready to eat, let’s focus on the grilled cheese.
You will need Thick sliced American Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Fontina Cheese, 3 leaves of Sage, 1 Sprig of Rosemary, Butter, Wonder Italian Style White Bread or any nice thick light bread you prefer
In a sauce pan slowly melt 1 TBSP of Salted Butter, add the Sage and Rosemary whole and sweat down in the butter. Once the herbs have rendered their goodness remove them. Butter both pieces of bread with the herb butter and add 2 Slices of American, some shredded or sliced Mozzarella and grate or slice some of the Fontina onto to the buttered bread. Close the sandwich and proceed to make the grilled cheese in the traditional manner. If you like the herb butter enough make extra and cook the sandwich in the herb butter as well.
Once the sandwich is complete, get one of your biggest and best coffee mugs or stoneware serving vessel. Add the soup and top the soup off with a drizzle of the pesto sauce. Cut your sandwich on an extreme bias
and dip into your soup and enjoy!
Chef Ricco’s Bloody Mary
Simply take 7 ounces of the blended tomato purée from my soup recipe.
Add 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce & 1 TSP of Gold’s Horseradish in a cocktail shaker over ice, add 1.5 ounces of premium vodka, shake vigorously and serve over ice with a garnish of fresh anise for one of my famous Bloody Marys!
This is great to make with the Uncle Gus dish for a super at-home brunch!